Our response to the White Paper: “A Smarter Approach to Sentencing”

Restorative Justice

Restorative Solutions believes strongly that attention needs to be paid to what we believe are missed opportunities to make better use of restorative justice, which is a very well researched approach to helping both offenders and victims. In particular, we see a need to distinguish restorative justice from reparation or community resolution.

Restorative justice should, in our considered view, be so called only when taken seriously. Our key definition is that restorative justice is a structured meeting between an offender and perhaps a supporter, a victim and perhaps a supporter, and a trained and impartial facilitator. The meeting allows each party to explain their experience and to understand the other’s point of view. Acts of atonement or reparation do not produce the established benefits of well structured restorative justice.

“A Smarter Approach to Sentencing”

The theme of the White Paper should be “smarter”, but that word appears once only after the heading. “Tougher”, however, appears 18 times and provides a clear alternate theme. Restorative justice is mentioned 10 times, but not before page 52. There is also much discussion of victims’ experience in court and around sentencing, but little on reducing victims’ trauma and assisting their recovery. It is accepted that the latest Victims’ Code from the MoJ is explicit (at Right 3) about the full use of restorative justice, and the Code is mentioned at p.24.

Missed opportunity with Restorative Justice for offenders

There is a missed opportunity to look at restorative justice for offenders as early as page 8 (within “Our Vision for Reform”) where the White Paper says, “a successful period of probation supervision can challenge and motivate offenders to address the causes of their offending.” This is pre-eminently true of restorative justice, but the Paper does not offer it. At p.34 (para 88) the White Paper says, “For (these) prolific offenders we will continue to consider whether there are innovative ways in which we could tackle their persistent offending.” We believe restorative justice is such a way; although it is no longer innovative, it still seems different to many in the legal system, regrettably.

When dealing with offenders in the community, the White Paper says at pp. 37-38 (paras 97-98), “The evidence points to taking a different approach to this cohort, which helps to break the cycle of reoffending. If we can reduce reoffending, the benefits will be felt by society as a whole. Building on the lessons of the past, in this chapter we set out a new vision for community justice that combines robust punishment and management of risk with a greater focus on addressing rehab-ilitative needs. We will deliver this through a combination of legislative reforms and significant investment in improvements to the way probation supervises and rehabilitates offenders. (...) We are clear that we will not compromise our responsibility to victims of crime or the safety and protection of the wider public. We also understand the importance of providing victims with the support they need to cope and recover regardless of the sentence received by the offender. We will work carefully and closely with the judiciary to fully embed our new approach across the criminal justice system.” Again, we stress that restorative justice is ideally designed to achieve these aims. 

Restorative Justice is an important part of the Justice System

At p. 43 (para 123), there is another missed chance to embed restorative justice in the range of “robust and responsive” measures sought, and at p. 59 (in the summary), the White Paper seeks to see “offenders challenged and motivated to address the causes of their offending” – another opportunity, very clearly, for restorative justice. By p. 95 the White Paper is open to “inviting views on how reparation and restorative justice can be improved.” It is necessary to distinguish these two different approaches.

Finally, at p. 101 (paras 363-367), restorative justice is seriously mentioned. The White Paper says, “we believe restorative justice is an important part of the justice system and has significant benefits both for the victim and for the rehabilitation of offenders,” but it confuses full restorative justice with the declining reparation orders. The reader should concentrate on the last sentence of para 367, by “ensuring that restorative justice continues to be victim-led.”

Want to learn more about Restorative Justice?

These are the essential points of response to a White Paper which fails to fulfil its potential and, in so doing, risks missing sentencing reform opportunities and benefits for offenders and for victims and society.

For further information about Restorative Justice please contact Restorative Solutions' expert team.

Start a conversation

We’d love to talk to you about how we can find a solution for you.

or simply call us on 01772 842109

What people say about Restorative Solutions

I'm so glad I am working with RJ. I don't know who would listen to me if it wasn’t for you.
A Person Harmed by Crime
RJ is very underrated and I certainly think we should be using it more.
A Professional who Referred Someone into our Service
Very satisfied – it’s been a great service. A worthwhile process for me and I hope for the offenders. Staff have been great and I would like to thank them.
A victim
It was the right thing to do. Both victims told me to let go of what happened. I didn't want to hear it but they both forgave me and said I should move on. I have taken that on and thought about it and I have come to terms with what happened. You've helped me significantly. It's as though my head has been lifted of a gigantic weight.
An Offender
Thanks for your time today. I feel like you understand R so well, I really hope you can help him to learn how to be happy.
Feedback from a family in East Kent
Restorative Justice offers a unique opportunity for victims and survivors to move on from and overcome the trauma that can be left with them after experiencing crime. I am exceedingly proud of the work that the team at Restorative Solutions do in supporting our community. We should always consider the needs of victims of crime and this service exemplifies that sentiment and allows so many to put behind them what can be the worst experience of their lives.
Marc Jones, Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Case Studies

An Attempted Burglary: Restorative Justice Case Study

When Joanne and her husband had just gone to bed, they heard a really loud bang downstairs. They immediately thought som...

A Workplace Assault: Restorative Justice Case Study

Nick worked at a clothing shop. When he noticed Glenn, a customer, shoplifting, Nick stepped in to challenge him. The po...

A Manslaughter: Restorative Justice Case Study

We received a referral from a Victim Liaison Officer who was working on a manslaughter case. The grandmother advised the...

A Robbery: Restorative Justice Case Study

This Restorative Justice case saw Jamie and Ruth openly communicate in a face-to-face conference. Years before, Jamie at...

A Non-Recent Child Sexual Abuse: Restorative Justice Case Study

The victim in this non-recent child sexual abuse case was a 56-year-old woman called Lisa. Her father sexually abused he...

A Creeper Burglary: Restorative Justice Case Study

This was a case of an overnight “creeper” burglary in a residential area where the harmer had gained access through an u...

Our Partners

Insights, Articles & Advice

The Victims' Commissioner Has Launched the 2022 Victims' Survey

Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner, has launched the 2022 Victims’ Survey. The survey should only take around...

Read More

An Excellent RJ Conference in Merseyside

An Excellent RJ Conference in Merseyside...

Read More

The 5 ‘R’s of Restorative Justice: Are They Always Applicable?

The 5 ‘R’s of Restorative Justice: Are They Always Applicable?...

Read More

Get News and Updates

Start a conversation 01772 842109